Saule Aoki, BMC, 24′

Montgomery County Coroner

Semester: Fall 2023

Faculty Advisor: Maja Šešelj

Field Site: Montgomery County Coroner’s Office (MCCO)

Field Supervisor: Jessica Bisch

Praxis Poster: 

Saule Praxis Poster - Copy


Further Context:

During the fall of 2023, I had the opportunity to participate in a praxis course designed around an internship with the Montgomery County Coroner’s office. The county coroner is responsible for determining the death’s cause, manner, and circumstances through medical examination and investigation. You may see the profession portrayed in crime TV shows, but real life is much different. In addition to homicide and deaths involving criminal activity, the coroner’s office is responsible for investigating suicide, accidents–such as falls or drug overdoses, sudden death,
deaths in-custody’s-or during police intervention or incarceration.

During my internship, I participated in various steps of the medicolegal process. I attended and assisted with autopsies every day during my training. I measured and recorded organ weights, took fingerprints, and helped everything run smoothly. While assisting in the morgue, I observed
how the medical examiners determined the cause of death and had the opportunity to ask many questions. I learned a lot through hands-on participation and witnessed how pathological signs discovered during an autopsy indicate the cause of death.

Last summer, I interned with the Harris County Institute of Forensic Science in Houston, Texas, through Bryn Mawr’s summer internship program. My prior experience with medicolegal cases in Houston provides a basis for general comparison with the patients I observed in Montgomery
County, which has a median income twice that of Houston. Houston had many more daily cases, more homicides, and people who did not have access to healthcare during life. Yet, Montgomery County has huge wealth disparities; patterns of wealth were highly associated with the number of cases and circumstances of each death.

Overall, I’m grateful for the opportunity to intern with the Montgomery County Coroner’s office. I have gained a lot of insight into the field, and I plan to use the connections I’ve made to continue a career in forensic science.